Friday, January 13, 2006

One fat belly

For a girl who thoroughly enjoys dressing up and looking pretty for dinner, there is nothing more thrilling than finding a dish that both delights the taste buds and enhances the complexion. We have been told by various health magazines that such things exist in fruits and vegetables. As much as I like my spinaches and apples, I love my pork belly infinitely more. Believe it or not, the gelatinous substance or collagen in the pork belly skin has been prized by Asian women for thousands of years for its ability to make the skin appear dewy when ingested regularly. For those of you that have complemented me on my good skin genes, now you know my secret.

Seeing the almost translucent mound of perfectly braised pork arriving at my table almost made up for the 18 hours of torture on board UA 895 to Hong Kong. Every time I encounter pork in Asia that is so deeply flavored, I wish someone would immediately destroy all those “pork is the other white meat” advertisements all over the New York subways. Pork is meant to be glistening in fat, marbled with white, and capable of saturating whatever it accompanies with that silky texture only lard could impart. And get this, eating this pork belly will not make you fat when you indulge in moderation. The mound you see here is enjoyed by 4 adults at my table with tons of well-steamed greens and we were all satisfied.

Picking the pork up with chopsticks was the tricky part. The braising had tamed the pork so much, it easily broke apart from a little more than a gentle squeeze. This also meant that the meat literally melt in my mouth while leaving behind a hit of salty sweet from the dark soy and rock sugar that it had been braised in. The preserved greens under the pork finished out the dish perfectly by cutting some of the pork’s richness with its tanginess.

At this point, I changed my mind and rather like the idea that E had taken a piece of the meat before I could take a photo. It will forever remind me that waiting is not an option from this belly to our bellies.

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